Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson’s announcement that he is retiring from the Senate can be seen in three different ways. One is that he simply confronted poor poll numbers, coupled with the politics of a state red enough that Barack Obama is guaranteed to lose it.
Second, Nelson’s demise can be seen as a final verdict on a maneuver that transpired almost exactly two years ago. In case you forgot, Nelson and his Arkansas counterpart, Blanche Lincoln, are the two conservative Democrats who saved the health-care overhaul in late December 2009. Had these two senators stuck to their criticisms of the bill, it would have died in the Senate in late 2009. The bill likely would have been downsized to a modest expansion of Medicaid and some tighter rules for pre-existing illness exclusions. Instead, both senators, reluctant to be blamed for the failure of a 63-year-old Democratic-agenda piece and fearing nationally funded primary opposition from the left, swallowed hard and voted yes.
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